Late Summer 1881-Jackson, Mississippi
My Missus wanted me to go with her out of town. The baby,T abitha, was big enough that me being gone for a while–at least two days was alright. I hated to leave Isabelle and Tabitha. And Even Ira. I was scared out my head. I was jumpy for weeks. Weeks! Watchin to see if the baby color would change all the while.
I sat in this hot coach ‘cross from the woman that had caused my Daddy to hang lower than a tree limb. I thought about Sister Anne. I thought about my grandmother. I thought about the last piece of advice Sister Anne told me ‘fore I left her house almost three years ago.
“You got to be careful ’round dem folk, Tally. Stay low. Be low. And if something not of the Most High happ’m? Run like a demon gotcha, baby!”
Miss Victoria was sleeping. Eyes closed and hands all perfect in her lap. Orpah was left in charge while she was gone. I still didn’t know why this woman asked me to go with her! “For company.” she said. “Tabitha needs some time with her own Mama! She always hanging on you!” It was how she said that. Like I was dirty or somethin that should be livin outside. I watched her hand on my shoulder, lookin like a claw off some crab in a basket. I made my mouth break into a smile. “Yes, ma’am.” Those words tasted like vinegar.
We hit a bump that broke me free of the memory. I wanted to talk to Ira. I needed to talk to him. Orpah mighta known. The way she looked at me in early July while she was hangin the wash let me know she knew! How she made sure she was never in a whole lotta light. It was getting to be the thick of summer. And Orpah and I was just watching Tabitha to see if she would turn as brown as bread. If she did, I didn’t know what lie I could tell to save her, me or Ira.
I took in the whole sight of Miss Victoria. Gold earrings. Stringy hair that she made Orpah fuss over into this pile on her head. She wore blue because her Nan told her that ‘ladies always wear blue for luck.’ Her dress was hemmed, and she had a new corset. I looked at her chest struggling to keep her breath in it. I got this sick feeling way down deep in me, stirrin and rollin like.
I aint never had to be sold. But I knew that fear made my Mama run. That rollin, sick feelin is what I had the last time I thought I was gon be taken from my Nan. I closed my eyes. I thought about Ira. I thought about how he looked at me as I had gotten dressed that morning. He was looking like I was about to blow away outta open window. “You really going?” I looked at him, looking at me in the little vanity I had in my room. “Yes, Ira. I’m goin’.” He shivered, still in his dirty field clothes, in my hot room. “I jus thank you about to be fed to a spider is all.”
Fed to a spider.
Sister Anne told me about at time she had almost been sold. Sold to a man that all he did was, ‘keep and breed’. That was why she had to run. I thought about the house. I thought about Isabelle. I thought about Ira and Tabitha. I thought about never seeing them again. I thought about how I couldn’t leave yet, she had to pay for what she did to my Daddy. To my family. I wouldn’t be tricked or satisfied till I did what God hadn’t done yet!
I woke up to a hand on me, and pulling at my dress. There was this small child pulling at my dress, with these big ole grass green eyes and brown hair. “Tally! Tally!” I squinted, making my mind settle. She wore green calico and her face was dirty. “Come inside and see your room!” I looked at her, and her dirty little hands. “Room?”
The little girl looked at me, her eyes as big as the moon over the big house we were in front of. I thought she was looking for the lie floating on the inside of me. “You are going to stay with us now, Tally! Daddy made sure of it! For my birthday, I got you!”